The Road To New Orleans, Part 1

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My phone rang through the car bluetooth as I burned through a yellow light on my way home from work Monday night. Right off the bat, I was less than pleased as it violently interrupted the “Return of the Mack” verse I was trying, but failing, to sing along with. Then I glanced at the screen perched atop my dashboard, still cracked from the wild right cross I threw after a less than ideal call from my boss, and I was shocked to see the name — Mike. I hesitated before pressing the green accept button, knowing exactly what a call from Mike meant.

He was up to something.

In 2016, it’s commonplace to send out an email when attempting to assemble that cast of characters that have since parted ways. But that wasn’t Mike’s move. Mike has always been old fashioned, opting for phone calls over texts, and written thank you notes over awkwardly written emails.

“Why are you calling me, Mike?” I answered in a playful, yet somewhat serious manner. Mike’s one of my most self-aware friends, and he’s well aware that his reputation precedes him. If Mike were a dog he’d be a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Active, loyal, standoffish to outsiders, and always looking for the next hunt. When he called, it was almost always one of three things: 1.) Mike did something absurd and he wanted to brighten your day, 2.) Mike got wind of an investment opportunity from his power broker uncle and he wanted to see if you wanted a taste of the action, or 3.) Mike was tired of his smoking hot uppity girlfriend’s uppity friends, and their uppity husbands he was forced to hangout with, and he wanted to get back to his roots.

Let me clarify. When I say, “get back to his roots,” I mean run point on a guys’ trip that will undoubtedly leave most of us paying off credit cards for the next year. You see, there’s two Mikes. The one that I met in college and hung out with throughout my early twenties, and the one that moved to Houston for a job and a girl that is completely oblivious that she’s involved with a fully functioning human time bomb.

“What are you doing the first week of May?”

As I clicked open the gate to my hilariously overpriced uptown apartment, I felt something that I hadn’t felt in months, if not longer. It was edge, in pure chemical form, and it was rushing to every limb and appendage of my body. Despite the fact that I had no idea what this asshole had planned, or whether I’d have a conflicting event, I was fully torqued.

“No idea, but tell me what you’re scheming up,” I responded, with all the enthusiasm of Howard Dean after placing third in Iowa.

As I sat in the parking lot wedged between a white Jetta and a white Land Rover, I thought about how much I needed this trip. Also about how much I wanted to meet the presumably hot drivers of both of those vehicles, but mainly how much I needed the trip. My industry has been taking losses left and right for well over a year, and the closest thing to a vacation I’ve had was two days trolling the bars in my hometown for Thanksgiving and the three-day weekend that was Christmas 2015.

“New Orleans,” Mike responded. “I’m turning 27 in May, and I’m sure I’ll get conned into getting engaged this year. I figured it’s a good excuse to get out there and swing the bats a little bit.”

If nothing else, the guy’s a salesman. I’m in my late-twenties, and I’ve never turned down a New Orleans trip. Sure, I’ve sworn the place off on multiple occasions, because a guy can only be robbed at knifepoint so many times before he’s had enough. But I’m a big believer in second chances, as well as third and fourth chances.

“Pencil me in. I’m going to check my calendar when we get off the phone, but this is happening,” I declared.

We were doing this. Mike gave me a rundown of who would be attending, and it was the usual cast of characters that were scattered throughout the great state of Texas. One name was noticeably absent, and I couldn’t fathom a trip like this without that name.

“What’s Jack’s excuse?”

Image via Dana Ward /

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